A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
Edward VI records his father’s demise with cool detachment, 1547
The rather scruffy handwriting you see here belongs to Edward VI, documenting in his diary (or
‘chronicle’) the fall-out from his father Henry VIII’s death in 1547. The first page of the young king’s chronicle explains that his uncle, Edward Seymour, rode to the medieval palace of Hertford to take him to his sister Elizabeth’s residence at the palace of Enfield. It was here, writes Edward – referring to himself in the third person – “the death of his father was first showed him, and the same day the death of his father was showed in London”.
Edward and Elizabeth are said to have wept in each other’s arms when they were told of their father’s death, but Edward recorded nothing of his personal feelings. What we are left with is his rather detached observation that Henry’s death caused “great lamentation and weeping” in England’s capital city.
The rest of Edward’s Chronicle focuses on the political and military events of his reign, revealing that he took a keen interest in the business of government and policy-making. This, and other papers he wrote on finance, trade, state and diplomacy, indicate that – though he became king at nine years old – Edward possessed the talent to become a great ruler. But his reign was one of unfulfilled potential, for Edward contracted tuberculosis and died in 1553, aged 15.